St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, is one of our most vivid testimonies to the Early Church at the beginning of the second century. Arrested by the Roman Empire and sentenced to die, ca. A.D. 108, Ignatius wrote a series of letters to various churches while en route to his martyrdom in the arena at Rome. In his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, he gave the Church at Smyrna a particularly strong admonition regarding adherence to their bishop. To us it attests to the early offices and roles of the bishop and priests as ministers of the Sacraments.
“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery [priesthood] as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic [Universal] Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.”
—St. Ignatius of Antioch
Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 8